COOL STUFF: THE HALLOW on BLU-RAY

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THE HALLOW (2015) Blu-Ray

The Hallow is an atmospheric and spooky Irish horror (see full review here) that has arrived on blu-ray from the awesome folks at Scream Factory, as part of their partnership with IFC Midnight…a partnership that has been yielding some great discs!

As for the disc itself…

The picture is gorgeous, the colors vibrant and really presents the visual style of director Corin Hardy and the wonderful cinematography of Martijn Van Broekhuizen, perfectly. The disc is presented in the original 2.35.1 widescreen aspect ratio, preserving the filmmakers’ vision. The sound is in 5.1 DTS and there is an alternate 2.0 track for those without the home theater set-up.

Now on to the extensive extras which make this disc even more worth having!…

The extras start out with a wonderful 50 minute documentary Surviving The Fairytale: Making The Hallow, which is a chronicle of the making of the film from story development, casting and even the training of the creature performers. It uses interviews with the director, cast and crew, with on-set footage to detail the film’s journey starting with Corin Hardy’s story and his decision to use practical make-up effects and prosthetics to portray the fairy creatures and the actual making of those creature FX for the screen. We then travel with Hardy and crew to the Galway, Ireland locations as the film begins production. Here we get to see all facets of how this dark fantasy was created, from staging FX sequences, to Hardy directing the actors in their scenes. It’s extensive and fun. We then go to post production to see the film start to come together and then on to it’s initial test screenings and finally it’s premiere at Sundance. It is a very enjoyable and thorough look at the making of the film, made by the filmmakers themselves with as much heart as they put into their film. You really get a sense of the passion that went into this project by all involved. We also get three ‘making of’ features derived from the documentary and then finish up with director’s storyboards, some illustrations from the Celtic  Book Of Invasions, which is featured in and influenced the film, as well as, Corin Hardy’s sketchbook and creature concepts. There is also an audio track with Corin Hardy commentary, too. It’s over 75 minutes of extras and if you love the filmmaking process, simply enjoy this movie, or both, these are a host of extras you’ll want to have!

I really enjoyed this movie and agree with star Joseph Mawle that the more you watch it, the more you see. It’s a very charming and yet spooky dark fantasy from a filmmaker to watch and Scream Factory has delivered it on a beautiful disc with a host of must-have extras…which has become their forte.

-MonsterZero NJ

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COOL STUFF: WYRMWOOD on BLU-RAY

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WYRMWOOD (2014) Blu-Ray

Wyrmwood is a bloody blast of a fun time (see full review here) and has arrived on blu-ray from the awesome folks at Scream Factory as part of their partnership with IFC Midnight…a deal I couldn’t be happier about.

The picture is absolutely gorgeous and brings Tim Nagel’s digital cinematography to vibrant life. The 1080P HD aspect ratio of 1.78:1 has been preserved, as has the ‘sumptuous-on-a-small-budget’ visual style of director Kiah Roache-Turner. The sound is in 7.1 DTS (though the packaging mistakenly says 5.1,  the disc itself is 7.1) and there is an alternate 2.0 track for those without the home theater set-up…and if you don’t have a 7.1 set-up, I advise you use the 2.0 instead. The sound is much more evenly mixed for playback on simple stereo speakers. Now on to the extras which make this disc even more fun…and worth having!

There is audio commentary from director Kiah Roache-Turner and co-writer and brother Tristan and the two seem like very laid-back fellows and their insights into the three year making of the film is easy-going and informative. There is a really fun ‘making of’ feature called “The Wyrmdiaries” that chronicles the long journey to make this flick and it looks like there was a a real fun time on set, despite all the hard work. It’s made by the Roache-Turner Brothers themselves and the on-set footage and cast and crew interviews show a set filled with fun-loving, good-natured people having a great time together. It is a healthy 50 minutes and is as much of a blast of fun as the film itself and gives you a nice inside look at guerrilla filmmaking in action, Down Under style. There is the 7 minute teaser scene used to garner interest for the planned film and it’s fun to see where the flick began. There are also two videos made to entice crowd-funding…one of those featuring the filmmaking brothers as zombies. Add to that, almost 20 minutes of deleted scenes. As, the film moves like a rocket, it was easy to see why these were jettisoned but, they are fun to see, nonetheless. Rounding out the bonus materials are director storyboards and the theatrical trailer for the finished film. A healthy amount of extra material for a modestly priced disc.

I really enjoyed this movie and it will appear on my “best of” list for 2015. The disc not only beautifully transfers the digital film but, gives us a some really fun and insightful extras that take us behind the scenes with two fun guys with a passion for filmmaking. For a blu-ray disc priced around 12.99 at most retail outlets, it’s definitely worth having if you are a fan of the film or zombie/Road Warrior-ish movies like it.

-MonsterZero NJ

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COOL STUFF: SPRING on BLU-RAY

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SPRING (2014) Blu-Ray

NOTE: Spring arrived today (6/2/15) on Blu-Ray as a Best Buy exclusive. It will be released to all other retail outlets on 8/11/15.

Spring is already poised to be on many 2015 best horror lists and is definitely going to be included on mine (see full review here). The Blu-Ray is here from Anchor Bay and, in my opinion, is worth having if you are a fan. On the technical side…the picture is in the 2:40:1 aspect ratio and the image is crisp and clear and preserves the subtle colors of co-director Aaron Moorhead’s cinematography. Even with a bit of a muted color scheme, the film still captures the beauty…and a bit of the romantic mystery…of the enchanting Italian locations. This works perfectly with the offbeat, dark fairy tale nature of the film and the more natural look is refreshing in an era of bright comic book colors. The sound is in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, which is perfectly suited to the film’s mostly subtle tone. This is not a big FX action film and it doesn’t need anything too extravagant.

Now on to the extras which make this disc so worth it…

There is audio commentary from directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead and the two present a laid-back account of many aspects of the filmmaking process. There is an extensive ‘making of’ feature that is made up of numerous segments focusing on the script, casting, filming in Italy, the make-up and prosthetic effects from Todd Masters and crew, visual FX, scoring and pretty much every aspect of the film’s production. It’s made by the filmmakers themselves and uses a lot of on-set footage and interviews and is actually a lot of fun. It is lengthy at 70 minutes but, is never boring and avoids the stuffiness of more technically focused ‘making of’ features and if you like the filmmaking process, should find it informative and a bit charming, too. There are two deleted scenes that are actually extended versions of scenes in the film and they were really good exchanges between our leads and it was nice to see them shared. There is a breakdown of FrostFx’s main FX segment during Louise’s big reveal, including nature photos used a s a reference, to the concept drawings, to the actual CGI shot. We also get the filmmakers’ original proof of concept used to sell the movie idea, an alternate ending (which, I’m glad they didn’t use) and a few more minor tidbits that seem to be there just for fun. Overall a very generous selection of extras, most of which are very informative and entertaining on a very reasonably priced disc.

I really enjoyed this film and certainly, with it’s extras, find this disc a must-have. it’s a unique and original film presented on a disc that accentuates that uniqueness with an equally offbeat look at how the film was made from conceptualizing to FX. If you like something a little different movie-wise and enjoy in-depth looks at the filmmaking process, this a certainly a disc worth having in the collection.

-MonsterZero NJ

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COOL STUFF: ESCAPE FROM N.Y. COLLECTOR’S EDITION on BLU-RAY

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ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK COLLECTOR’S EDITION Blu-Ray

Escape From New York is one of my all time favorite films (see full review here). It’s the film that cemented John Carpenter as one of my favorite directors. A starkly original idea featuring one of the greatest, and sadly underused, film anti-heroes of all time. There have been a few editions of the film on VHS, DVD and even a feature-only blu-ray, but, now Scream Factory has delivered this classic flick in a special 2-disc edition loaded with extra features that gives this quirky Sci-Fi adventure the treatment and respect it deserves!

The print is a new remaster from the original negative and is absolutely gorgeous. The image is crisp and clear and the colors are vibrant without betraying the look and feel intended by the filmmakers. The movie has never looked better and having seen it on screen, on VHS, on DVD and on previous blu-ray, I can say that with the utmost confidence. It’s never looked better. The audio is DTS-HD 5.1 and sounds great. It’s like seeing and hearing the movie again for the first time. It’s a beautiful presentation of this classic movie. Now on to the fun stuff…

We get some nice audio extras… not one but, three commentary tracks. There is a new track featuring actress Adrienne Barbeau and cinematographer Dean Cundey. Also, previously released tracks from Joe Alves and Debra Hill, as well as, the classic John Carpenter and Kurt Russell commentary, which is almost as entertaining as the film. More on-set insight than you could ever hope for. As for video treats and featurettes, the second disc holds a mix of new and previously released material. The first featurette is new and is a really cool look at EFNY’s SFX. It contains behind the scenes stills and interviews with Dennis and Robert Skotak, who worked at Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, which did the visual effects for the film. The Return To Escape From New York documentary from the MGM collector’s edition DVD is also included here and is filled with interviews from all the principles. We get the now legendary deleted bank robbery/arrest scene with an added new interview with actor Joe Unger, who played Snake’s partner Taylor in that deleted sequence. There’s a fun new look at scoring the film and the legacy of the soundtrack, with co-composer Alan Howarth. There is a great interview/slide show with on-set photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker, who recently released a book (review here) featuring her work as a photographer on a number of Carpenter’s films. We get an interview with filmmaker David DeCoteau, who was working as a PA with New World Pictures at the time and got to visit the EFNY set. The disc then finishes up it’s extra’s section with theatrical trailers and two photo galleries on top of all the rest of the features. A great selection of extras to compliment the film.

As fan of Escape From New York, you couldn’t ask for a better special edition. The film looks great, sounds great and there is a nice selection of nostalgic and informative features and interviews to bring you back to 1980 when the film was being shot. I personally had the opportunity to see this flick in a theater…my beloved Oritani Theater…back in January of 1981 and it instantly became one of my all time favorites. Now I can enjoy it like never before thanks to this newly remastered, extra-filled, loving tribute from Scream Factory.

-MonsterZero NJ

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COOL STUFF: GODZILLA 2014 on BLU-RAY

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GODZILLA 2014 Blu-Ray

I liked Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot (see full review here) but, I didn’t love it like the Godzilla fan in me wanted to. It split audiences and fans alike but, did fairly well at the box office, especially overseas… but, is it worth owning? if you like the film, I’d say yes.

Obviously, as with most HD releases of these Hollywood blockbusters, the picture looks great… though the night scenes seemed a tad too dark… and the colors are rich and sharp. Gareth Edwards has a nice visual eye and so, the shots all look good and the King Of  The Monsters does look quite majestic when he finally is on screen… more on that later. The sound is really good, though I don’t have a top of the line sound system so, I can’t comment on the maximum effect as it may be enjoyed by someone who has the full 7.1 set-up. But, I think it should sound splendid.

The movie aside… extras are a mixed bag with there being three featurettes focusing on Monarch and the M.U.T.O. cover-up conspiracy in the Monarch Declassified section. These are thankfully short as they are only moderately interesting and get repetitive when you watch them together. The extras recover with a lot of cool stuff in the Legendary Godzilla section which has 4 behind the scenes features on the making of the film with a lot of interviews and production footage that takes you deep into the creation of the movie and it’s monsters. As for Godzilla’s limited screen time… told you I’d get to that… You get to hear Gareth Edwards explain his reasoning for Godzilla’s significantly limited appearance in his own movie, as well as, the cutaways from the action that many found frustrating. I can’t guarantee you’ll agree with his methods and reasoning, but, he does explain himself. Over all, this segment more than makes up for the lackluster Monarch section though, I was still disappointed that there were no deleted scenes or gag real.

So, If you liked this movie, the disc is definitely worth owning. The movie looks and sounds great and the extras may be uneven when viewed separately but, even out as a whole. It is a fun movie and entertains well enough though, not the ultimate screen appearance of Godzilla that his many fans, like myself, were hoping for.

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COOL STUFF: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER on BLU-RAY

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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER Blu-Ray

I really enjoyed this Captain America sequel (see full review here), and that alone for me was reason enough to pick it up on Blu-Ray. The picture is obviously gorgeous and the sound is top quality, as is per usual with these Marvel flicks when they’re released on home media.

There are some nice extras but, it is on the short side when compared to some of the other Marvel releases. We get a making of documentary which is a cool look at putting together some of the action scenes, a small featurette on Anthony Mackie and an even smaller featurette on Cap’s little black book that he carries… you’ll have to watch the movie first, to find out what’s in that. There are some deleted scenes but, nothing special, which is no surprise, as the film gets a lot done in it’s tight 138 minutes. There is audio commentary from the directors and writers and an amusing gag reel, which is a lot of fun. Again, not a lot of stuff here but, this is one of the best of the Marvel films so far, and to me, it’s worth owning for the film content alone.

So, If you liked this movie, the disc is definitely worth owning just for the film itself, if you were expecting a ton of extras and maybe even a peek at the upcoming Avengers: Age Of Ultron, you might feel a little short changed. But, this is an awesome flick so, I was perfectly happy just to see it again in HD!

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COOL STUFF: PUMPKINHEAD on BLU-RAY

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PUMPKINHEAD COLLECTOR’S EDITION Blu-Ray

I love Pumpkinhead (see full review here), it’s a favorite horror, especially around the Halloween season, and one of my favorite movie monsters. The film has never been released on video or DVD in it’s proper aspect ratio, so, those like myself who didn’t catch it in it’s limited theatrical release in 1988 have yet to see it in all it’s glory… until now!

Scream Factory once again takes a cult classic title and gives it the proper respect it is due. The remastered picture looks absolutely gorgeous with rich colors and clarity that preserve the wonderfully spooky imagery director Stan Winston brought to this creepy tale of backwoods revenge. The image is presented in a sumptuous 1080 HD and there is remastered DTS audio to go with it. It’s like seeing it and hearing it for the first time.

As for the extras, there are commentary tracks from writer Gary Gerani and the creature FX team and about 3 hours of interviews and featurettes to chew on. Everything from the previous MGM DVD special edition is there, as well as, some new interviews from producer Richard Weinman and actor John Di’Aquino (Joel), as well as, an interview filled tribute to the late Stan Winston… which brings about my only criticism. The Stan Winston tribute documentary goes on for about 15 minutes too long. At about the 35 minute mark, the interviewees seem, at that point, to be rambling on and it becomes tedious and loses a bit of it’s focus. Some judicious editing would have kept this at a more reasonable length and still preserved the essence of it’s fond look back at working with the FX legend and the impact he had on these individuals. There’s a lot or repetitiveness as it drags on and would have lost none of it’s heartfelt purpose with losing a few minutes.

But, aside from that one meager critique, this is an absolute must have for fans of this flick. It is a gorgeous looking edition filled with extras that take you back behind the scenes of the making of a cult classic that sadly never got the proper attention it deserved… until Scream Factory got a hold of it. Another great collector’s edition from the awesome folks at Scream Factory! Pumpkinhead has truly been resurrected at last!

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COOL STUFF: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 on BLU-RAY

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THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014) DVD/Blu-Ray

I have mixed feelings about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (click on the title for full review), though will admit I have softened my stance a little after watching it again. Not having done quite as well as previous installments, this summer blockbuster has been rushed onto home media before the summer is even over and comes loaded with extras to lure us in. But is it worth the buy?… Let’s take a look…

TASM2 may  have it’s flaws but, it was a great looking and well designed movie and the digital Blu-Ray image is gorgeous and even crisper on your HD TV then blown up on a movie screen. The colors are rich and the complex action and FX really look great and hold up under the scrutiny of being up close in your living room. The sound is great and the film may, overall, actually play better at home where it’s somewhat convoluted story can be absorbed better with the more intimate setting. The deciding factor when considering picking up a somewhat flawed film are the extras… and this disc has a generous amount of them to sway us. First off we get about a dozen deleted scenes. Not all of them are gems, we can see why some did not make the cut but, we do get to see more of the Green Goblin, a few more scenes with Felicity Jone’s character of Felicia Hardy and a scene between Peter and his father which was interesting though I understand the decision to not go that route. The real draw for me is over 100 minutes of production footage and interviews and as an amateur/wannabe filmmaker myself, I can eat this stuff up and it was cool to see how this complex production came together. There is also the traditional director’s commentary and even a music video from Alicia Keys for “It’s On Again” from the movie.

So, whether you want to pick this up depends on how much you liked the flick. The film plays a bit better at home, looks and sounds great and has a generous amount of extras to add to it’s appeal. As a movie geek, who loves this kind of stuff, I found myself being a bit more forgiving of it’s flaws the second time around and really enjoyed the in-depth look at how the film’s production came together. Unless the movie completely failed to interest you, or, you consider it to be a far greater disappointment then I did (see review) then I’d say it’s worth having, especially as most retail outlets have it on sale for it’s release, as well.

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COOL STUFF: WITHOUT WARNING and OCULUS on BLU-RAY

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As my last product review did quite well, I’ve decided to premiere my new column… Cool Stuff! Obviously it will be a look at/review of cool genre related items and home media.

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WITHOUT WARNING (1980) DVD/Blu-Ray

The folks at Scream Factory have done it again by bringing this hard to find cult classic to DVD and Blu-Ray for the first time ever. This 1980 low budget sci-fi flick (full review here) has been out of reach for decades and Scream Factory has resurrected it in all it’s cheesy fun, 80s glory. The combo DVD/Blu-Ray pack features a remastered print with a really nice package of extras. We get commentary from director Greydon Clark along with all new Scream Factory exclusive interviews with leads Christopher S. Nelson and Tara Nutter, producer Daniel Grodnick, legendary cinematographer Dean Cundey and make-up FX master Greg Cannom. They are all fun recollections about the making of a lost cult classic… and a personal guilty pleasure of mine. Scream Factory always gets some fun and informative interviews out of these people, treating us to an inside look at a film the likes of which would normally not get… but strongly deserves… such star treatment. A lot of enjoyable nostalgia here.

As for the print itself, the film looks as good as it probably ever will. There is some flickering and extra grain in some of the darker scenes. Probably due to flaws in the existing print revealed when those scenes were lightened but, as a film left in a closet somewhere since the 80s, this is probably the best source material available and considering it’s age and the low budget nature of it’s production, it still looks really good and the colors are rich and the image crisp. The sound is clean and very good quality and overall, despite any minor flaws in the source print, this looks far better then one might expect and the overall quality far outweighs those minor anomalies. Another great job by Scream Factory giving a cult classic the respect it deserves. Definitely recommended!

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OCULUS (2014) Blu-Ray

Oculus is my favorite horror, so far this year (full review here) and as a big fan of co-writer/director Mike Flanagan too, I eagerly awaited it’s home media release anticipating some cool extras and it didn’t disappoint. The disc comes with commentary from director Flanagan and a nice assortment of deleted scenes, including one with a cameo by Absentia‘s other leading lady Katie Parker (Courtney Bell’s cameo as a auctioneer remains in the final cut). There is a fascinating documentary about the making of the film including interviews with behind the camera talent and gives some cool incites on how the film came to be and how they pulled it off. To add to that, it also includes the full 32 minute short film version of Oculus that the feature film started out as. If you love the film making process as much as the movies, like myself, these are some extras that follow the genesis of how a film is created and brought to life. Very Cool!

As for the movie itself, the print is gorgeous. The disc preserves the rich but, varying color scheme of the film (brighter colors for sequences early on but, more muted and cold as the darker story elements unfold) and the picture is crystal clear. The sound is nice and full and while I don’t have a fancy sound system yet, it sounded great to me. All in all, a really nice presentation of what I believe is one of the best horror flicks of the year, if not in some time. It’s got some really solid extras and the movie itself was just as effective the second time around. Highly recommended.

Deleted scene from Oculus featuring the lovely Katie Parker…

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BARE BONES: GINGER SNAPS on BLU-RAY

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GINGER SNAPS (2000) on BLU-RAY

I’m normally not one for product reviews, but am so very happy that this cult classic (full movie review here) has finally been given the love it deserves by the awesome folks at Scream Factory. This label just keeps delivering these wonderful editions of horror cult classics and giving fan favorites and obscure guilty pleasures the respect they deserve with pristine restored prints and engaging extras. Ginger Snaps is finally presented in it’s Anamorphic Widescreen glory (1.78:1) and has a nice DTS 5.1 sound mix. I don’t have the best sounds system, but it sounded really good to me and the picture was clear and had only some mild graininess in some of the darker scenes, but this is a low budget horror movie and that is just fine. The colors are rich, but not over-saturated, so they look natural and the picture is certainly better quality then any other presentation before it. There are some nice featurettes and deleted scenes along with commentary and new interviews from director and co-writer John Fawcett and Karen Walton as well as leading lady Emily Perkins. Obviously the presence of star Katharine Isabelle is sadly missing, but Scream Factory claims communication with the actress’ representatives went unanswered. Too bad. Otherwise this is a must buy for fans of this Canadian cult classic horror.

… and DAMN! Emily Perkins looks good in those new interviews!

three and one half stars rating

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